The consumer market is growing in Romania as the appetite for new stuff is still high. The same can be said about the sports goods market, with people looking to build healthier and more active lifestyles. Business Review talked to Catalin Pozdarie, general manager at Hervis Sports & Fashion Romania, to see how the sports goods market is developing and how online sales are changing the business.
By Aurel Constantin
The Romanian consumer market is growing, both in terms of purchasing power as well as interest for high quality items. How is this seen in the sports goods market? Has the average price of a pair of running shoes, for example, increased?
The Romanian sports goods market is on an upward trend but, unfortunately, if we compare it to other countries in Europe, the percentage of people practicing sports at least once a week remains the lowest, below 10 percent, even though Romanians have begun to understand the importance of exercising in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the benefits of practicing it from an early age. In Northern countries, about 80 percent of the population over 15 years old engages in physical activity at least once a week. This means that there is still a lot of potential in Romania. The average price for a pair of shoes has seen an insignificant growth, below 1 percent. But the number of those who are starting to practice sports has tended to increase. This aspect, correlated with the expanded offer and a correct mix of products, along many other factors, have influenced our sales growth. 2019 was our best year, with a growth of 21 percent.
Online retail has flourished in recent years. How is this generally seen on the sports goods market? Online retail is currently experiencing the highest growth rate. To be successful as a store, we need to be where our customers are. And they are everywhere: they come to the store to see the products and order online, they do research about the products online and then buy from the store or they simply see products online or in the store and buy them straight away. It is not a recipe, but those who are the quickest to adapt to market trends are the winners. Online sales recorded a 60 percent increase last year. Such growth is only possible in the online area.
When we purchase sports goods, especially shoes, trying them on is very important. Do customers prefer to come to the store to try on items or are they willing to order several products online and then return what doesn’t fit?
For customers, it is equally important to try on articles as it is to research products online. Our customers do not tend to order and return later, as they might do in other fields like fashion, for example. In Austria and Germany, customers order several sizes of the same product and return those that don’t fit. But this is not a common phenomenon in Romania, especially because it involves a much greater financial power.
How does the activity of a classic sports goods store change as a result of online sales?
First of all, the mentality within the company has to adapt to the change generated by online sales. The same customer can either visit the store or order products online. Their buying experience must be kept at the same high-quality standards. Store employees must have online sales skills (“Digitaler Verkeufer”, as they say in German) to find products that are in stock or suggest adjacent products on any device, like a smartphone or a tablet.
Is the online sales volume relevant to Hervis or is it more of a marketing activity?
If we compared it to stationary stores, at the moment, the online store has the best performance. The sales volume is relevant and it is the only channel that can record such large increases from one year to the next.
How will online sales evolve in the future? Will they grow at the expense of offline sales or complement customers’ shopping experience?
Since the launch of the hervis.ro online shop, online and offline sales have not cannibalized; we have recorded significant increases on both channels, which we think will also be feasible in the future. The sports goods market has not reached maturity, there is still room for growth and we have become accustomed to reacting very quickly and being flexible regarding our clients’ needs.